Last year I stumbled upon an interesting profile in the The Kinfolk Table. It was about Suzanne Fuoco, who the authors described as a jam maker. What a lovely way to spend your days, I thought. It also reminded me for a second of Olivia, who in Scandal secretly dreams to make jam in Vermont, together with Fitz. But that's just my weird mind. Seriously though, I get Olivia. In an alternative life I'd do the same. Making all kinds of jams, butters and chutneys. I would sell them in a small bakery in the cutest town, bake banana bread, and serve the best tea in the country. Wouldn't that be nice? You'd visit right?
a solace of ripe plums
seeming to fill the air
They taste good to her
Maybe later, because right now, life is happening. School has started again, almost everybody is back at work. September always feels to me like the start of a new year, more so than January 1st. Anybody recognizes this? New Year's always comes across as too socially constructed, whereas the end of summer is a more natural transition into something new. As a child, the first school day is also the first day of a new year. It meant a lot when I was young. A new class, seeing my friends again, learning new stuff after a long summer break.
I grew up in a very small village. My sister and I spent the whole summer playing outside: building tents, letting the dog chase our rabbit or the sheep (I know, I hereby apologize for the 8-year-old me), making our own perfumes from flowers in our garden, trying to sell them on the side of the road, ending up giving them to our mom who could barely stand the smell. Every year we also stayed a few days with our grandparents on their farm. The sleepover planning aka chaos started long before summer. My grandparents have seven children and lots of grandchildren. It was always a contest who was the first to ask grandma about when to stay over. And it always resulted in a huge mess, ending with our 'beppe' telling us not to worry: there were enough weeks in the summer to invite all of us. Our days there were filled with helping my uncle milking the cows, making hay, eating redcurrants with custard, riding my bicycle with grandma alongside the like. It sounds idyllic, but that's what it was.
I remember one summer the whole family, my dad, my mom, my sister and I, went blackberry picking. In my mother tongue we call them 'brommels'. It's one of my favorite Frisian words. The entire kitchen smelled like heaven. Preserving fruit was very normal in our home when I was young. My grandmother still makes jam every year. Here in The Netherlands it's also very common to make fruit butter, especially with apples. There are few things that taste as good as homemade apple butter. Summer always makes for beautiful memories, but it was also a good thing the new school year started again after six fun weeks.
Last week I made my own plum butter, for the first time ever. I asked my mom for some advice (it's basically the same as making apple butter) and was filled when joy when my home started to smell from all the lovely spices and the simmering plum puree. This is such a rewarding way to make the most of those delicious plums, which are in abundance right now. Also, plum butter is a healthier way to preserve fruit than jam in general. Butter often consists of whole fruits, including (some) peel, there is less sugar in it, no pectin (which isn't necessary for jam either!), and you add spices to create a different flavor.
Plum butter with cardamom & vanilla
makes about 3 cups
1 kg/4 lb plums
3-4 tbsp honey/cane sugar
4 tbsp orange juice
2 strips orange peel
1 vanilla been, seeds
1 cardamom pod, ground (discard pod)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
How to make it:
1. Wash the plums, remove the pits and puree in a food processor.
2. Strain the puree above a heavy bottom sauce pan or dutch oven. You are left with a smooth mixture.
3. Add the spices, honey or sugar, orange juice, strips of orange peel and give everything a good stir. Place on the stove, on medium heat. When the puree starts to boil, lower heat as much as you can. It should only bubble slightly.
4. Keep stirring frequently and cook for about 60-75 minutes until it rounds up on a spoon. The butter should thicken, but not become sticky.
5. Pour into glass jars and store in the fridge. Keeps well for about 3 days, but freezes well too.